Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer (1 in 5 Americans develops skin cancer by the age of 70), but when the most serious type of skin cancer, melanoma, is detected early, the five-year survival rate is 99%.
The moral of the story? Check your skin frequently for signs of skin cancer. The earlier you catch a problem, the better chance you have of treating it and coming through with flying colors.
To that end, here’s an easy-to-remember method for checking moles on your body, courtesy of the experts at Melanie Adams Dermatology. They check you this way when you come in for an appointment, but it’s important for you to use this method at home between visits.
It’s called the ABCDE method:
Is your mole about the same on each half, or does one half look different than the other? Imagine a line drawn straight across the middle of your mole. If one side is a different shape than the other, it could indicate skin cancer.
The border refers to the margins or edges of the mole. Moles that are cancerous often have borders that are irregular, jagged, or poorly defined.
Most noncancerous moles are even in color over the entire mole. (Colors range from pinkish to brown to black.) If your mole is mottled or more than one color, it could be a sign of skin cancer.
Cancer can make your mole larger. A good rule of thumb is that if the mole is larger than the size of a pencil eraser (about 6 millimeters), it may be cancerous.
If your mole has changed in size, shape, or color since it was last examined, that’s an indication it may be cancerous. This includes moles you’ve had for many years.
You should regularly check your skin for these signs, plus you should ask your dermatologist or primary care provider for a skin exam at least once a year. If you see any of these concerning characteristics as you examine your moles, schedule a visit with your dermatologist right away.
Of course, the biggest factor in preventing skin cancer is avoiding direct sun exposure — having five or more sunburns doubles your risk of melanoma. Use sunscreen, wear hats and sunglasses, and stay out of the sun in the middle of the day if possible.
Call the office of Melanie Adams Dermatology in Columbia, Maryland, or request your appointment online, and we’ll get started with an exam and any necessary treatment right away. Remember, the sooner, the better!